Friday, April 28, 2017

JordanCon 9 Recap Post

Here we go again, bear with me, and apologies for the photo-heavy post. I’m fighting post-con brain fog and swells of Post-Con Depression to bring you the highlights of my annual trip to Atlanta for JordanCon, the best little literary convention nerdfest around. It is family, and that family grows every year.

For the uninitiated, JordanCon is an annual literary convention dedicated to Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series, but has since spread to encompass all things Sci-Fi and Fantasy. It takes place around the third weekend in April in Atlanta, Georgia. This year’s toastmistress was Amanda Keene of, the Author Guest of Honour was Charles Gannon, and the Artist Guest of Honour was Stephen Hickman.

In no particular order, some highlights from my convention this year:

  • Wednesday - Rolling in Wednesday meant I had a chance to have a laid back dinner with other staff members who’d also arrived early. We’re staff, but we’re also chosen family, and many of us are geographically challenged and rarely in the same room during the remainder of the calendar year. Once JordanCon’s setup begins, we’re off running--at least until the Dead Dog party Sunday night--so Wednesday provided a moment to preemptively catch our breaths, shoot the shit, and enjoy each other’s company before the insanity truly began.
  • The Nine Horse Hitch - April and Chip Moore have bestowed a name on their party room, its namesake being that of the most infamously ambiguous inn in the books. One of my favourite things about JordanCon these past few years has been the honour of working as Chip’s runner in that makeshift bar, and dubbing it the Nine Horse sets my wee geeky heart aflutter. There’s a hospitality muscle Chip and I enjoy flexing together, and I think I’ve finally figured out why we make such a great team. It’s been a long running joke that Chip’s wife, April, and I share a hive mind--and I think the reason he and I work so well together is because I think so similarly to April. We just click. Thank you for letting me be your runner and shooter girl, Chipper--cheers!
Top: The Nine Horse Hitch is rocking!
Bottom: Chip Moore and Lannis

  • The Hive Mind (speaking of April, the Art Show Director to whom I am assistant) - I miss my girl so much, and every year we get more in sync. This year involved us (simultaneously and undiscussed) ordering identical meals, as well as a moment where I was handed April’s locked cash box and asked the (unknown by me) combination, whereupon I spun the dial randomly and hit the release to have it pop open, creepily, with a handful of Art Show volunteers as audience. You guys: the Hive Mind is real!
  • Photos - Over 1000 over five days, and not enough (there’s never enough). The chance to parse together what the hell I did during a five day sleepless bender is helpful, though, thank the Light for technology that fits in your pocket. I uploaded over 400 to my private Facebook account, and half of that to the JordanCon public Facebook page. 

Top: Chip Moore and Alan Romanczuk
Bottom: Paula Sutcliffe, Glen Vogelaar, and Lannis in tiaras.
  • Tiara Time! - Tiaras, everywhere. Yes. It was first of what sounds like a will-be-annual event, and held on Friday night coinciding with my handing out Hawaiian leis (because reasons--namely low impulse control, an Amazon browsing spree and because everyone should get laid at a tWoTcast panel. Duh.) Every pic I see with a tiara and a lei makes me happy. 

  •  TWoTcast's barmaster’s competition - Resident JordanCon bartender Chip Moore competed against Team Jordan’s Alan Romanczuk in three rounds of cocktails and a sudden-death shot challenge, judged by Aubree Pham, Lauren O’Hara, and Jason Denzel. Alan won, though the winners were definitely the audience, what with the epic tale spun around Alan’s drink “Aviendha’s First Night” and silliness ensuing (Mimes! tWoTcash cannon! Shenanigans!).
tWoTcast's Barmaster Competition
  • Ta’veren Ties/Pink Ribbons - I dressed as the Ebou Dari Widow to sell pink ribbons to con-goers, who then awarded those ribbons to their favourite Mat cosplayers. Queen Tylin was there, too, and all the proceeds went to charity. All those Mats, all those pink ribbons. *giddy sigh*

Queen Tylin and her Mats. Photo by Tina Pierce
  • Unplanned writing win - Spontaneously pitching my novel to Author Guest of Honour Charles Gannon in casual conversation, completely unprompted--I actually remembered the pitch I’d written and managed to deliver it smoothly. And when I humbly said I suppose I should start querying and begin my rejection collection, he very kindly honoured me by replying, “Or it’s accepted.” *fans self*
  • Writerly support - Also on the topic of writing, I received a genuinely touching pep talk from a longtime JordanCon and Rereader friend, Richard Fife (JordanCon's Writer's Track Director), who assures me that, “there will not be pitchforks” if I manage to publish this novel. I’ll hold you to that, Richard--I’ll send any pitchforks your way.
  • Werepup Babysitting - Missy Lindsay needed a hand wrangling werepups Roger and Violet, so I graciously offered my services while selling pink ribbons. The pics and odd reactions make it more than worth the baby snuggles. And whomever reported me as a shitty babysitter for putting that kid in a headlock should remember that it’s a werepup and they’re different than human babies--besides, Clementine the baby Trolloc is totally cool with headlocks, why wouldn’t her cousins be? 

Jason Denzel of Dragonmount, and Roger, the werepup.
  • Costume Contest - Every year the costume contest gets more and more impressive , and JordanCon 9 was no exception (Serafina Virciglio’s Kitiara! Blew. My. Mind!). This was my first time entering the costume contest as a member of a group, and we placed first--go team! (spoilers) Darkest Timeline Rand and Wives--a “what if Rand had been converted to the Shadow?” concept, where Rand (Paul Bielaczyc), Elayne (April Butler), and Aviendha (Cassi Costoulas) are all Shadow-sworn, and Min (myself) their prisoner/slave (because she isn’t a power-wielder and therefore not an equal). Damn, we rocked it. (PS: I told you if we did it we’d better gun for first, Paul. haha) 

Darkest Timeline Rand and Wives placed first in the JordanCon 9 costume contest.
Mr Lannis thinks that Rand al'Thor is a lucky man, regardless of timeline.

Clockwise: Serafina Virciglio as Kitiara uth Matar; Molly Weiss as Sevanna; Zackary Stevens as Mat; Megan Fordham as Birgitte.
Non-WoT costumes ahoy! Sanderson, Martin, Dresden, Star Wars -- it's not just a Wheel of Time convention!

What? Is this creepy?
  • Hunting first timers - Sure, the convention game this year was hunting Darkfriends, but who needs that when you can creepily keep a list of people who’ve said on Facebook that they’re attending their first JordanCon, and then scaring the bejesus out of them, scarring them for life, freaking them out ahem, honouring them by whipping out your cell and showing them that you’ve got them on a checklist and are trying to connect with as many newbies as you can? That’s not stalkery at ALL. For the record, folks, I lost my own game. I had 28 names on my list, and found 9. NINE. I lost the game and I was the only one playing! WHAT THE NUGGET?
  • Bird Dog Maple Whisky - For the last year I’ve been telling JordanCon vice-chair Jimmy Liang he needs to take the con chair, Jenn Liang, and me out to IKEA. He apologized for this deficit with a twenty-sixer of Bird Dog Maple Whisky, which aside from a few sips given away at the Dead Dog on Sunday night, I pretty much put away all by my lonesome, mostly at the Dead Dog itself. She is smooth, and my new favourite, straight or on the rocks, even if it’s in a paper cup. Bonus: when you spill it on your hoodie you can still wear that hoodie to the airport the next day because you smell more breakfast than boozy. You're welcome.
  • Our Art Show--it’s grown, you guys. It’s chock full of fantastic art, and we keep running out of space, and despite having fewer attendees we’ve sold more art than ever before--and blown past convention industry benchmarks, to boot. The artists, the volunteers, and the hard work everyone puts in over the weekend and year round is what makes this event so successful, and it shows. A couple of years ago Mr Lannis said I wasn’t allowed to purchase any more wall art, but thankfully this year he neglected to say anything so ridiculous (I refuse to admit that rule carries over. haha). I’ve been coveting Charles Urbach’s gorgeous piece Unbound, and I acquired a print, along with prints by artists Melissa Gay, Amanda Makepeace, and a whole book on Artist Guest of Honour Stephen Hickman. Very art, much drool. [Insert Mr Lannis’ eyeroll here.]

To be fair, Mr Lannis likes stars, birds, and boobies.

  • No sleep - But I’ve learned not to sweat it and allow myself to lay down and rest without stressing about laying awake at night. Gone is the panicked tossing and turning, and I let my mind wander guilt-free and it reciprocates with a decent facsimile of coherent thought. Yes, I use sleep aids. Yes, even with whisky (Dr M told me it was okay!). Yes, I am bright-eyed and bushy-tailed at 6:30am despite both. I have given up, and thoroughly rely on the holy magic of under-eye concealer.
  • New volunteers - Jessica, this is all you, sweetie! I was so excited that you came to help us in the Art Show, and my heart swelled when I saw you pair off to check-in Melissa Gay, one of our attending artists and personified sunshine. I do so hope your first JordanCon was a memorable one, and that you’ll come play with us again! 

Ms Frizzle! Moiraine and Thom! Harley Quinn!
  • Pinky Shear - As luck would have it, I ran into my costumer-mentor Pinky Shear! She needed a place to change for the pyjama-themed dance party and I got a chance to pick her brain regarding next year’s costume--win win! (yes, it’s already happening!)
  • Tai Chi with a Czuk - One morning while snagging breakfast in the (ridiculously fantastic!) Consuite I lagged on the balcony with artist (and huggable, pocket-sized friend) Amy Romanczuk to watch her partner Alan Romanczuk practicing Tai Chi in the courtyard below. Random Tai Chi practice, folks. With a member of Team Jordan. Only at JordanCon!

Anthony Acker of the Black Tower and Alan Romaczuk practicing Tai Chi.

  • The Signed Bookplates - Every year JordanCon has a charity auction, and this year we had a special treat: five bookplates signed by Robert Jordan entered as single lots each. I ended up bidding on a couple in the live auction (so cool!), but losing out. I thought it was fitting since Mr Lannis once said “no more wall art,” and that same year I spent my allowance on Clementine the Trolloc baby, then the next I acquired a Melissa Gay original (SPACESHIPS!), so it tickled me to think of his expression when I told him I spent $300 on a sticker. Sadly, I was outbid. But seeing the look on Mr Lannis’ face when I told him of this plan was close second, haha.

Maple Whisky, a coveted signed bookplate, and friends (Lannis with Jimmy Liang and April Moore). What more can I ask for?

And that’s it for the “fit for public consumption” highlights, eh? Next year is rapidly shaping up to be our best yet: the talented Stephanie Law is our Artist Guest of Honour, and our Author Guest of Honour is none other than my bestie Jason Denzel! (Did you know Pomella was based on me? haha) It'll be JordanCon 10, as well as the 20th anniversary of Dragonmount and Theoryland, not to mention that the recent news that Sony has picked up the rights to the Wheel of Time TV series means more people will notice our shindig! Our convention continues growing, and there’s nothing like the vibe we share. If you’ve ever considered--even peripherally--attending JordanCon, I can not stress enough that you will not regret it. Every year I am giddy as I watch first timers become enraptured by the outpouring of love and organized chaos, and I’m delighted when they vow to return.

The lifeblood and energy of this convention is its people, and trust me when I say it’s worth every heartbeat.

Until next year, JordanCon family. <3

Monday, May 2, 2016

JordanCon8 Recap Post

My apologies. I’ve been staring at a blank page for far too long. Post Con Depression has its foothold, and it’s the reason I’ve been so quiet (sorry! heh).

2016 marked the sixth consecutive year I’ve traveled from Toronto to Atlanta for JordanCon, the little literary convention with the big heart.

This year’s JCon was hosted by my friend, Linda Taglieri, a renowned Wheel of Time scholar from The Thirteenth Depository, and it had the added honour of being the site of this year’s DeepSouthCon (those guys, they’ve been around the block a time or two, and let me tell you: they know how to have fun!). The Author Guest of Honour was Catharine Asaro, the Artist Guest of Honour was John Picacio, and the shenanigans and revelry were bigger, better, and more shenanigan-y than ever.

No, seriously. We’re going to have to come up with some crazy shit to top this year’s tom foolery--that’s the real reason why JCon is only once a year: it takes us a whole year to come up with an idea that tops the previous year.

(Wait, er, I mean… I’m not up to anything. Except maybe liver failure.)

The highlights from JordanCon8 were many, thus I present a sampling, featured in no particular order and likely even less sense:

  • Thursday evening Directors’ Dinner: before the crazy of con truly begins the Directors and guests enjoy a meal together, and as a newly appointed assistant director, this was the first year I attended. However, there had to be at least one tradition to kick off the weekend, and apparently it was the one where I say something mortifyingly inappropriate in front of respectable author Brandon Sanderson. I blame the wine. And Paul Bielaczyc. (Damn you both for making me memorable! *sigh*) 

  • Performing in the Opening Ceremonies as Sith Elaida: yes, my hack acting skills were on display in full getup as a Wheel of Time/Star Wars mashup character Sith Elaida (Elaida Jedai? Either way--she’s too obtuse to realize she’s channeling the Dark Side, haha!). So much fun, and myself, along with April Moore as Jedi Cadsuane, and Brit Lewis as Jedi Moiraine, and Linda Taglieri as toastmaster absolutely rocked those Opening Ceremonies! (I wish I had pics, or even better, video!)

  • The JordanCon Art Show, in all its glory! It’s no secret that I’m biased: having worked quietly as April Moore’s second for years now, I now carry the title of Assistant Director for the Art Show. 2016 marked the fifth annual JordanCon Art Show, and it was our most successful yet. Our talented artists and dedicated team of volunteers outdid themselves again. Our exhibits were dazzling, our sales were up by about 30%, and no one lost their mind (or voice!).

  • The Friday evening meal tradition of the Rereaders’ Dinner: in the past we’ve all negotiated our way to a restuarant, but this year Ross Newberry went to the trouble of having our annual meal catered at the hotel instead of on the road. (It was excellent, and methinks we need to continue it in the future.) And we had Rereaders join us who had never hit up JordanCon before! (ALICE!) Big hugs all around!

  • Sharing JordanCon yet again with my cousin Mandy: as much as it saddened me to sit out of the costume contest this year (a girl only has so much disposable time), I had the privilege to watch her place 2nd in the costume contest (Canadians represent!). And I helped with her Myrddraal makeup: this means I’ve placed 5 years in a row now, right? Right?

    Clockwise top left: silliness in the elevator; with Jason Denzel; the Myrddraal places second; the Hive Mind lives (April Moore and Lannis).
  • The Writer’s Workshop, and receiving praise from Catharine Asaro on my writing. “An economy of words,” eh? I’m tickled! 

  • Hanging out with my BFF, Jason Denzel, in person instead of online for a change, and watching his eyes roll every single time I declared pretentiously that Pomella, the protagonist of his novel, Mystic, was based on me (of COURSE she wasn’t). He later set me up in front of Harriet McDougal (Robert Jordan’s widow) and Brandon Sanderson (big wig author). Knowing I would preen on cue and state the dreaded line, “Pomella was based on me,” Jason turned my teasing around with a snort and the burn, “Only the bratty parts!” Oh, Jason! Payback’s a bitch, sir! Just wait! Haha! oxo

  • Seeing old friends, naturally, but also seeing newbies enjoy their first JCon (Kalen! Ebony! Drew! Alice! And many more!) Honestly, I love expanding our Con family, and watching you enjoy JordanCon for the first time gives me all kinds of warm fuzzies! (Come back next year: the second time around is even better, trust!)

    Costumes from the contest and more!

  • Speed Friending: after years of singing its praises and wanting to attend yet having conflicts, I finally made it to the Speed Friending panel! It was far louder than I’d anticipated but oh so much fun! I highly recommend it, and plan on hitting it up again next year!

  • Downing maple flavoured Crown Royal Rye shots with Jason Denzel and Richard Fife at the bar, and--over the weekend--teaching not one but two bartenders how to make lovely layered B52 shooters. Ah, yes, boys, stick with me, and I’ll show you all the fun drinks! Ha!
  • Catching tWoTcast live, playing “Who Said tWhat?” and laughing so hard I cried as they read smutty passages from books by Robert Jordan, Brandon Sanderson, and (previous JordanCon Author Guest of Honour) Patrick Rothfuss; while at the same time I was helping Chip Moore (JordanCon’s official bartender) serve the audience with his portable bar (dude means business!).

  • Getting Maria Simons (of Team Jordan) and Jennifer Liang (the JordanCon Con Chair) to throw panties at our friend Ross during the costume contest--his was a Wheel of Time mashup costume: a gleeman/Elvis named Al’vis, hence someone needed to make sure panties were thrown his way. (12-year-old me is simultaneously thrilled that I have this sort of rapport with these ladies, and absolutely mortified that I insist on sullying our reputation, haha)

  •  Hanging out with our fantastic artists at the Art Show, including the talented likes of Edsel Arnold, Charles Urbach, and Amy Romanczuk. And then purchasing a Melissa Gay original--oh yes, Crystal Run is mine! Muahahaha! 

    Crystal Run by Melissa Gay; 8 x 10, acrylic on canvas.
  • Being accused of being the head of the Black Ajah--a flattering accusation (oh, that I might be so devious as to devise what is clearly a very very good trick!)--and yet completely baffled by what is going on and wondering why am I not cool enough to get a Black Ajah ribbon?! (Seriously, peeps--if you know the lowdown on this one, drop me a line, I'm intent on unraveling this puzzle. info[at]

  • And the cream of the shenanigan crop: the Leigh Butler masks. Leigh is a past Toastmaster and the head of the Wheel of Time Reread (and all around amazing chick), and was unable to attend this year’s JordanCon. Well, that wouldn’t do… so you know we Rereaders had to fill the hole in our hearts the best we knew how--by making not one, but, uh, maybe a dozen Leigh-on-a-stick masks so we could enjoy her as if she were with us. And of course such a stunt isn’t complete unless we unleashed it far and wide throughout the con, getting pics with everyone we could think of--and then I obnoxiously went onto Facebook as the pics were cropping up and pretended Leigh was avoiding me all weekend (because alcohol makes everything more believable). We love you, Leigh! Oxo 

    Fun with Leigh-on-a-Stick!
  • The Team Jordan signing: where thanks to volunteering I was able to jump the (rather long) line, and had Harriet sign my copy of The Wheel of Time Companion, “To Lannis, a scholar and a Trolloc,” and then had Alan Romanczuk tease me--because the tradition of embarrassing shit happening in front of Harriet clearly must continue. Then he asked me how I was going to top JordanCon 2016's shenanigans next year and I made it clear his wifey would be helping me--haha! Poor, Alan!

  • And so many more fun times: the costumes! The dance party! Karaoke! The gaming hall! Two proposals! Silliness in the elevator! Chatting with new people in the ConSuite! MORE!

    Every year I say that JordanCon is like a family reunion, but that’s because it bears repeating: this con is my tribe, and I’m oh so honoured to be a part of it and watch it grow--and grow it has! This year was record-breaking for attendance at 701 people attending the convention, and it really is the little convention with the big heart.


Saturday, November 21, 2015

MYSTIC by Jason Denzel - Book Review

Rating: 4/5 -  A satisfying read that’s worth every word.

Title: Mystic

Author: Jason Denzel

Format: hardcover

Published: 2015

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

Publisher: Tor

Landed in my hands:
purchased myself

Summary (from dust jacket flap):

I called to the Myst and it send us you.

For hundreds of years, highborn nobles have competed for the chance to learn of the Myst. Powerful, revered, and often reclusive, Mystics have the unique ability to summon and manipulate the Myst: the underlying energy that lives at the heart of the universe. Once in a very great while, they take an apprentice, always from the most privileged sects of society.

Such has always been the tradition—until a new High Mystic takes her seat and chooses Pomella AnDone, a restless, lowborn teenager, as a candidate.

Commoners have never been welcomed among the select few given the opportunity to rise beyond even the highest nobility. So when Pomella chooses to accept the summons and journey to the secluded forest dwelling of Kelt Apar, she knows that she will have more to contend with than the competition for the apprenticeship.

Breaking both law and tradition, Pomella undergoes three trials against the other candidates to prove her worthiness. As the trials unfold, Pomella must navigate a deadly world of intolerance and betrayal, unaware that ruthless conspirators intend to make her suffer for having the audacity to seek to unravel the secrets of the Myst.


I wasn’t going to write this review.

Not because Mystic isn’t a good read, but because I find myself in a peculiar position with this title, one that’s never happened to me before.

You see, I know Jason Denzel. And not just a little bit—I count him a close friend.

Knowing I was carrying a bias, and also conscious of the fact that I am genuinely excited and proud of him for accomplishing publication, I began reading Mystic with trepidation.

So I did what I do with any book when I’m afraid I’ve lost my objective viewpoint: I took notes. Copious notes. Kept stickies inside the front cover, and I marked every time my inner editor wanted to rewrite a sentence for him, and every time my brain wandered away with a thought—be it praising or criticism.

And you know what? Dude did good.

Mystic has a quick hook, and is plainspoken with a clear, definitive voice. It has the classic tropes expected of the fantasy genre and bildungsroman literature, but doesn’t feel recycled. The worldbuilding feels authentic, not forced. At times I thought some of the names were clumsy, but overall they worked, and the gleanings of culture—of Oakspring and beyond—were well done. I particularly liked the idea behind the Common Cord—where family-specific knots are tied on a cord in a show of community solidarity.

(Though I’ll admit every time the word “culk” is tossed out as a curse word my brain gravitated to a different four letter curse word... probably because I have issues, heh.)

It’s a quick little YA read that was a refreshing change of pace. It’s comfortable in itself, and I find that’s important—especially in a first novel.

But despite all this, and despite my note-taking (begun as a way to give Denzel feedback, more than anything), I still wasn’t going to write this review, and I wasn’t going to post it on my teeny tiny wee platform on my corner of the Interwebs. I didn’t even want to admit to him I was reading his book (and I almost kept that secret).

But then, Mystic’s ending surprised me. Twice.

Here I thought based on tropes I knew where it was going and exactly how it was going to end, and—whoop!—I was wrong. And the ending that’s there is built into the novel, it’s not some blindsiding to the reader, crashing in from left field unnoticed. No, it’s carefully laid in, yet subtle enough that it’s unexpected.

And that is why I’m writing this review. I’m a reader who tries to predict—it’s a symptom of the deconstruction that never stops happening in my overactive brain—so any time an author can flip the script on me and it works, well, I’m pleasantly surprised, and a satisfied reader.

So this is the review I wasn’t going to write, yet am proud to be able to put my—yes, biased, but carefully vetted—opinion out there.

Mystic is light, quick, and well done, and I know my kids will enjoy it. I’m proud to have it on my shelf, Jason, thank you.

Dude, you did good.